Another Perspective

The Boxing Ambassador

Up from the suburbs, in the Washington, D.C. area.

By 11.6.13

This is the story of a young boxer. He is a boy from the pleasantest suburbs of his city, a world of quiet tree-lined streets, of nice houses, SUV’s, good schools and all the best things a youngster could have. He comes from what his coach calls “a different environment.” That coach comes from the inner city, where he boxed with some renown in his younger years. He has arms twice the size of most men, few teeth, a great disposition, and a kind heart. About two years ago, this former fighter happened to be offering exercise instruction locally, and it was there that a rosy-cheek boy — who had come to the gym with his dad -- approached Coach and said, “Please, Sir. My name is ---- ----- and I would like to learn to box.”

At first his parents must have wondered if their son was serious enough to leave his brothers and friends and the ball teams of the suburban fields where he had played for years, to take on a very different sport with a very different world of its own. He was.

So he worked and learned his sport until today our young fighter gets to compete with other boys who box — and all on their home turf. That turf -- another “different environment” -- is far from the suburbs and is thought of and described by some residents as “neglected communities,” and the perfect place to build sports programs. To one local man, the official tournament photographer, it is a place where he can both practice and teach entrepreneurship.

At first our boy seemed a curiosity to the others — the lone blond in the weigh-in line. His family and fans looked conspicuous in the stands. But not for long. Last weekend the whole family went way downtown to pull for our boy at a fundraising tournament in the hood — a tournament titled “Fighting For Our Communities.” It was apparent there that this young man had chosen his sport well. He lost his bout to a good young opponent, but he put up a good fight. As he climbed out of the ring, he began to receive compliments, praise and even hugs from all over the crowd. “Good fight!” “Keep goin’” “You gonna be good!” And in response the boy thanked them in their own idioms, with their own gestures, just like his competitors do. This boy has learned their sport, and their ways — and in doing that, has become a young ambassador of goodwill from the suburbs to the hood. And clearly, the hood was saying “welcome.”

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About the Author

Manon McKinnon is a writer living in Falls Church, Virginia.